Have you ever had a pet before? If so, then you could probably imagine at least ten moments where that companion had dragged you out of your pool of stresses before. If not, then you’re about to find out just how vital an emotional support animal can be.
When I say, “emotional support animal,” the first thing that pops up in your mind may or may not be a specialized pug about three feet tall that has undergone vigorous training to be considered “qualified” to make you feel better. In reality, an emotional support animal is any animal that makes you less stressed or upset about certain activities that could be taking up too much of your energy. This could include personal pets, classroom pets—my eighth-grade science teacher actually had quite a few of these—or even stuffed animals (in my opinion)! However, it is important to note that there is a separate category of emotional support animals (and service animals) that are used with patients and you would need to qualify to interact with them. Regardless, these animals are just incredibly important items in your life that can make a huge difference in a difficult situation. In fact, some animals are so crucial and effective that they have been increasingly used more frequently in therapy sessions.
These animals can also mitigate the effects of certain conditions including post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorders, a vast range of phobias, and depression. In scientific terms, such animals help to produce neurotransmitters, which is the mechanism that allows a person to be happy. Recent studies have shown that dogs are a great example of a source that catalyzes the production of neurochemicals that result in dopamine production. This is because those neurochemicals are associated with feelings of love, happiness, and bonding.
These are just a few of the numerous reasons why emotional support animals, whether it’s your neighbor’s pet guinea pig or your teacher’s turtle, are so important to our mental wellbeing. It’s important to remember the difference that such an animal can make in some people’s lives, so the next time you’re feeling upset, you can relieve that stress with an emotional support animal!